Researchers at the University of Connecticut are measuring what communication really means in interpersonal relationships.
Amanda Denes is an associate professor of communication at UConn. Denes’ research focuses on the communication that occurs between people who have an enduring relationship.
“So it’s not just a stranger or a one off or somebody at work, but somebody that is like a meaningful part of your life. Broadly what I look at are the different ways that people communicate to both build and sustain their relationship,” Denes said.
This can be quantified in a number of ways. For some studies, Denes will have dyads, or groups of two people, come into UConn’s Interpersonal Interaction Lab. From there, Denes will prompt the dyad to have some kind of communication, and then record and analyze that conversation.
“We can code their conversations for different behaviors,” Denes said.
This isn’t the only way communication researchers can look at conversations, Denes explained.
“I’m also really interested in the biological effects of communication, so a lot of times I’ll take saliva samples before and after stressful conversation,” Denes said.
Denes often looks for relationship maintaining behaviors in these conversations. ‘Relationship maintaining behaviors’ is a catchall term for the type of behaviors performed in any relationship that may be beneficial to the relationship, Denes explained.
“These are things like being positive and upbeat. Telling your partner that you see a future in the relationship, so like assuring them of the future. Self-disclosing, so just like telling your partner how you feel,” Denes said.
Right now, part of Denes’ research has focused on couples in the pandemic.
“We were interested in how couples’ physical activity changed when they went into lockdown. Now that we’re all restricted and we have to stay home, what does that mean for our health?” Denes said.
Denes said that she enjoys communication because she’s always been interested in how people talk to each other.
“Communication is a dynamic process. It’s not just that we’re talking, but that we’re talking to people while we’re also on our phones and we’re using the Internet and we’re on Zoom and sometimes we’re in virtual spaces,” Denes said.
Students can learn more about UConn’s Communication Department at comm.uconn.edu.